Methods for estimating numbers of motor units in biceps-brachialis muscles and losses of motor units with aging
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This paper presents a new method, here applied to the biceps-brachialis muscles, for estimating motor unit numbers in healthy subjects. This method combines isometric contraction, intramuscular needle electrode recordings, and spike-triggered averaging techniques to measure the sizes of motor unit potentials as recorded in the innervation zone with surface electrodes. The number of motor units is then estimated by division of the maximum biceps-brachialis "M" potential recorded with the same surface electrodes and evoked by supramaximal stimulation of the musculocutaneous nerve, by the mean of at least 10 surface-recorded motor unit potentials. The requisite intramuscular recordings provide additional information as to innervation density, incidence of linked potentials, and impulse blocking, phenomena that are particularly common in neurogenic and myogenic disorders. There was clear evidence of losses of motor units in older subjects: subjects over 60 years of age having approximately half the numbers of motor units of subjects under 60 years of age.
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